Most Burkholderia pseudomallei strains are intrinsically resistant to macrolides, mainly due to AmrAB-OprA- and/or BpeAB-OprB-mediated efflux. We assessed the in vitro anti-B. pseudomallei efficacy of cethromycin, a novel ketolide with broad-spectrum activity against Gram-negative and Gram-positive pathogens.
The 2-fold broth microdilution technique was used to assess the in vitro cethromycin susceptibility of a prototype strain, efflux mutants, and a panel of 60 clinical and environmental strains. Time–kill curves were used to assess the mode of action. Spontaneous resistant mutants were isolated and AmrAB-OprA efflux pump expression assessed by quantitative real-time PCR. Deletion and complementation analyses were performed to demonstrate AmrAB-OprA efflux pump mutant involvement in high-level cethromycin resistance.
In contrast to macrolides, cethromycin was a weak substrate of AmrAB-OprA and BpeAB-OprB. Cethromycin was bactericidal at high concentrations and bacteriostatic at MIC levels. The ketolide showed efficacy against clinical and environmental strains of B. pseudomallei, with MIC values ranging from 4 to 64 mg/L. Environmental isolates were consistently more susceptible than clinical isolates. High-level cethromycin resistance (MIC 128 mg/L) was due to constitutive AmrAB-OprA efflux pump overexpression, but other mechanisms also seem to contribute.
In contrast to macrolides, which are readily effluxed, cethromycin is weakly extruded in wild-type strains and thus demonstrates significant in vitro anti-B. pseudomallei activity against diverse strains. Acquired high-level cethromycin resistance is caused by constitutive AmrAB-OprA efflux pump overexpression and other, probably non-efflux, mechanisms may also contribute to lower-level acquired resistance.